I find plenty of the cards out of Ravnica Allegiance interesting so far, and for a variety of different reasons. I’m going to do my best to evaluate the rares and mythics I have access to as of time of writing, and render a verdict on each. Hits are cards I’m likely to preorder, and misses are cards I won’t bother with.
I’ll start with the slam dunk of the set. Bedevil is a take on Hero’s Downfall, a card I’ve been wanting back in Standard for a long time. I like how Bedevil is a little more restrictive in which decks can play it, but also gives you some upside, taking out artifacts as well. I think we’ll see Bedevil breathe life back into various 3-color midrange archetypes like Grixis and Jund. The fact that cards like Treasure Map and Azor’s Gateway get punished is a downside, as those cards were typically most effective against control and midrange strategies, but it’s overall a good thing for a 3-mana card that can answer most threats in Standard.
This, so far, is one of the better cards revealed in the set. Gruul Spellbreaker plays well against Settle the Wreckage, but its greater strength is in its ability to hit the battlefield and dodge instant-speed removal that turn. Gruul Spellbreaker punishes any opponent who leaves up mana for a card like Vraska’a Contempt or Bedevil, effectively eating 3 or 4 of your opponent’s mana, which can leave an opponent a turn behind for the rest of the game. I love the riot mechanic giving beatdown decks more choices on how they play their cards for different situations, as it can feel like you have no decisions to make as you cast your cards on curve.
Hydroid Krasis is certainly a Limited bomb, and it has the potential to be an integral part of a big mana strategy, but outside of that this isn’t the type of card we’ll see in control decks. Cast triggers are a big deal, as they can’t be countered, but this falls really short of a Sphinx’s Revelation—half of X is just way too expensive. The fact that you can cast this as a 4-drop when necessary, continue to hit land drops and develop mana, and then continue to play larger and larger Hydroid Krasises makes this a big mana card that you can play four copies of, and that’s the most interesting aspect of this card as a contender in competitive decks. Those types of decks tend to fall short though, so I don’t have high hopes, but I think it has some potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong.
Judith, the Scourge of Diva
My first read of this card impressed me. I feel like it’s going to be good, but the non-token clause gives it a bigger chance to fail—I was more excited when I thought it worked with afterlife. It still does pump all tokens, but ideally you set up some pretty big turns on the back of sacrificing creatures, potentially with a card like Dark-Dweller Oracle. With spectacle as the Rakdos mechanic, Judith makes it incredibly easy to trigger, essentially guaranteeing a trigger with any attack. Fanatical Firebrand also triggers spectacle nicely, and with a spectacle card already revealed as exciting as Rix Maadi Reveler, I’m interested to see where a Rakdos deck can go from here. Judith is one of the most exciting cards to build with I’ve seen so far from this set, and potentially one of the strongest if we can find a good shell and some more support.
Rix Maadi Reveler
Before I saw Judith, the Scourge of Diva, I was a little less excited about Rix Maadi Reveler than other people. A lot of the times in Standard I feel that you may need to spend mana to cast a removal spell to push damage through to trigger spectacle, making it hard to also pay 4 mana to spectacle the Rix Maadi Reveler and get the three cards. As a 2-drop that comes into play and cycles another card, I’m not all that excited for that mode, but it’s important for when you draw the Rix Maadi Reveler in multiples. Judith makes it really easy to trigger spectacle, and also plays well with a bunch of small creatures like Fanatical Firebrand. You can unload your hand of cheap creatures, pump them with Judith, the Scourge of Diva, and refill your hand with the Reveler while pushing damage through. This style of deck has some appeal to me, and all of this sounds quite good with Gruesome Menagerie.
Tithe Taker is annoying enough for control decks, and provides enough overall utility to act as a role player in white aggressive decks in Standard. While I think it’s a hit, overall, it’s not especially powerful, and its disruption element decays quickly in a game, making it just an OK card. How the rest of the format shapes up, and how well we can utilize the afterlife mechanic, will largely impact how much of this card we see. If there’s a good outlet to sacrifice creatures, this card might be a staple, but as a standalone card it’s just OK and I wouldn’t be surprised if this card saw no play at all.
Zegana, Utopian Speaker
This one is close and will boil down to how many support cards reliably draw an extra card off Zegana. The fact that most of the creatures I’d want to play this with right now have explore, like Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger, means that they won’t always have counters on them, and makes the consistency at which this is a value creature a bit too low for my liking. Not only do these creatures occasionally not have counters, the creatures are also likely to die when cast. I can certainly see this in a full-on Merfolk deck if that turns out to be competitive, but tribal decks haven’t panned out in quite some time. Hadana’s Climb pairs nicely with Zegana, as curving out with it can help you trigger Zegana and allow you to adapt Zegana quickly, killing the opponent in one shot. A lot of things have to go right in that equation though, which is why I think Zegana will ultimately fall short despite the fact that I like the design of the card.
Absorb is harder to cast than Sinister’s Sabotage, an excellent 3-mana counterspell, but in decks that can easily cast Absorb, the 3 life is a fairly big improvement to surveil 1. When the counterplay to slow blue control decks is getting them into Banefire range, Absorb plays a huge role in staying out of range. You can ever target an uncounterable Banefire just to keep yourself from dying. With players putting Revitalize into their decks, you can tell how valuable 3 extra life can be. While that is only one reason the 3 life is relevant, having access to life gain in a control deck can turn close games into easy ones, which is why I like Absorb so much.
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
This card is perplexing. Its ultimate is weak, its +1 is weak, and its -1 is weak in Standard. It may have some applications outside of Standard, but overall the card just doesn’t have much of anything going for it. I could see this card seeing some play specifically as a graveyard hate card if there’s some sort of slower undergrowth deck, but even then it’s extremely narrow and inefficient. I’m going to pass on this one.
Deputy of Detention
I’m not in love with Deputy of Detention. This looks like a Modern card to me, to use with Collected Company or potentially Chord of Calling instead of Fiend Hunter. That said, I think this card will see some play in Standard, even if just out of sideboards. It’s most effective against aggressive decks, providing a body to block with while potentially dealing with tokens or small creatures. History of Benalia is the first card that comes to mind when I think about where Deputy of Detention lines up, and potentially any deck with March of the Multitudes. We won’t be seeing this as a main deck card out of control decks because having your Detention Sphere removed by creature removal is not where you want to be in game 1, but I can see this card coming out of control deck sideboards to answer cards like History of Benalia or other problematic permanents.
I don’t think this card is horrible and it could see play as a 1-of in heavily blue control sideboards, but it’s expensive and plays a very specific role against midrange decks or against decks tapping out to cast Niv-Mizzet. Its corner cases aren’t enough for me to give it the “hit” tag, but I think it could potentially win some unwinnable games against midrange decks that are out of control when they stick a planeswalker and a creature, or a couple of planeswalkers that you get to take control of and run away with the game. I don’t expect to see this card in main decks outside of some very specific metagames, like when Golgari Midrange is half the field or something.
Sphinx of Foresight
People seem excited about this card, but I’m not buying it. Getting the scry 3 to start the game is of course a good deal, but if you play four in your deck you’ll have it in your opening hand less than half the time, be stuck with four mediocre cards in your deck—4/4 flyers for 4 aren’t fitting the bill in Standard these days—and on top of all of that, scry 3 is at its worst at the beginning of the game unless you’re looking for one very specific card. The big advantage I see to this card is that you can maybe play it over lands in a deck that doesn’t need many lands to operate. A deck like Mono-Blue Tempo could play a copy or two of Sphinx of Foresight over a land, as it’ll help you find Curious Obsession early while also helping you make sure you hit land drops. On top of that it’s a curve topper in the deck when you need more heavy hitters. Outside of that deck I just don’t see where you’d want this card, so I’m going to say it’s a miss.
This might be a cool card in counters decks as it gets them whenever a creature gets a counter from anywhere, not just from activation, but that is more for casual considerations than Standard. This will be a great Limited card as it can be activated at instant speed, making threat of activation extremely useful. Mana sinks are often quite good. You may even get the occasional win from adapting enough creatures.
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
As far as Standard goes, Lavinia is a miss. There are no free cards in Standard, and very few ways to cheat on mana. As for Eternal formats, I think Lavinia will see some play, potentially in Modern Humans as an additional disruptive element. I’m still not sure how effective it will be as it’s got some small utility in a lot of places but is also extremely fragile, and in matchups where it’s bad it’s just a 2-mana 2/2, unlike Meddling Mage, which has utility everywhere, even in matchups where it’s not at its best. I’m sure this is not designed for Standard, but I’m also not sure how effective it will be in Modern either.
If I’m wrong about this one, I’m going to be really wrong. This will either be in some kind of broken deck I’m not seeing, or it’s a casual type card. Instant-speed Timetwister is no joke, but at 7 mana your opponent will have had plenty of time to establish a board and empty their hand. You won’t be getting a ton of card advantage trying to ramp this out, and there aren’t many powerful 7-mana cards right now. While I think this is a cool design for a format like Commander, I really dislike Timetwister effects in Standard, so I’m hoping this one falls by the wayside.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing this in Standard at all. As of right now there’s no exciting activated ability to reduce outside of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, but I don’t see these two cards being played together, nor would I recommend it. Outside of Standard, this card has some interesting applications, adding some redundancy to Training Grounds. We could see some sort of creature combo deck come of this, which is pretty interesting.
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
3-mana planeswalkers often seem weak at first, and play out much better in practice. This leaves me cautiously optimistic about Dovin, Grand Arbiter. This will be fairly strong against control, while likely being quite bad against aggressive decks as they can pressure it easily, and it doesn’t do a great job protecting itself, having to lose a loyalty to create a 1/1.
One thing that excites me about Dovin is its potential to slot into a legends-matter deck with cards like Karn, Scion of Urza, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Raff Capashen, and the legendary sorceries Karn’s Temporal Sundering and Urza’s Ruinous Blast. I could maybe even see Mox Amber making an appearance. Adding more pieces at the right spot on the curve may make this deck finally competitive, which I’m pretty excited to try out.
One problem I have with Dovin, Grand Arbiter is that it’s going to be a very play or draw dependent card—often too weak on the draw—while having a potentially high impact on the play. Lining this card up against, say, a History of Benalia on the draw is a nightmare, while on the play it’s likely much more manageable. I’ll give Dovin a hit, but I won’t be surprised if we don’t see this one after a week or two of people trying it in Standard because of how fragile it is.
So these are the rares and mythic rares that Ravnica Allegiance has to offer us right now. The guild that has me the most excited is Rakdos as it’s got some quite strong cards already spoiled in Rix Maadi Reveler, Judith, the Scourge Diva and of course Bedevil. Judith, the Scourge Diva has me pretty excited to get brewing but I’m still anxious to see some more of what Gruul and Orzhov have to offer. What guilds or cards have you the most excited so far?